Bohol Bliss

20121020-233000.jpgSo we fly into Cebu, have all the normal hassles that we’ve come to love with airports. Knowing that we had no interest in staying in a major city, we wanted to head out on the ferry as soon as possible. After agonizing over where exactly to go, we chose the island of Bohol. There were beautiful white sand beaches there, and Yvonne had reached a breaking point of not being to the beach yet. For me I was really interested in the Chocolate hills and Tarsiers. So we ended up with a metered cab, even though we had negotiated a locked rate, the “fixer” had lied. So we paid about a dollar more then we were supposed to. A small amount, but it’s all about the principal of it.

More importantly though, we made it to the ferry in time. We had an hour of time to spare, so we headed out looking for food. The scene we rolled up to was a very dirty port, with a large arch way with all the cabs, venders, and chaos at the entry point. There was a funky ultra modern but still gritty mariners church, and the coast guards complex. Next to that were more then a dozen street venders. All kinds of BBQ chicken, chicken hearts, pig blood, and many unrecognizable things. After walking through that mess there was an old fort on the corner. Fort San Pedro was originally built by the spaniards, and was one of the few things I wanted to see in Cebu. It was formed in the shape of a triangle, with one side facing the sea. In side was a gorgeous courtyard with all kinds of lovely flowering trees. This was a pleasant surprise, and gave us a moment to relax. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_San_Pedro

Then off to dinner. After surveying the food options, we chose the cleanest looking spot with the most recognizable parts of the chicken. Grabbing a seat on the plastic stools, we hunkered down. We pointed and used sign language in choosing what seemed to be the safest bits all doused lovingly in a homemade BBQ sauce from a tin. We also got these really cool woven bannana leaf triangle packets that we thought were a souvenir, but then she sliced it in half and it had perfectly cooked rice inside. The leaves protect the rice from the heat and steams it in side. Super yummy.

Then on to the ferry we go for a two hour ride to Bohol island, and the city of Tagbligaran. You hop off the ferry and once again are accosted by drivers, all screaming at you. My technique for this is to walk out of station, then grab one at my leisure and negotiate. They always try to take you to a hotel, where they get a commission. So make sure you already have plans, or a name of a hotel at least. You will generally get a much better rate this way. Our hotel was not gorgeous, but functional, and only $23 bucks a night. The best part was it had a beautiful pool in back which we used.

We asked the staff if there was any bars near by, and got a blank stare. So we wandered out, looking for something. There was a sign on a bar near our hotel stating NO FIRE ARMS ALLOWED! A great first impression of the neighborhood. So imagine our surprise when not even forty feet from our hotel was a high end resort. With a giant pier jutting out to the water and a thatched roof bar and live music. The thatched roof had green neon lighting it which we had actually seen from the ferry as we came in. No bar indeed! What a great surprise which made for a relaxing evening. So we were so relaxed, we though we would check out the loud dance music blaring from another section of the resort. Ahh hell, why not. And even though our flip flops were against code, we got in. And of course, with the added help of whiskey, a crazy night of dancing began.

The next day did not begin so well. Yvonne was not feeling that great, bit too much fun night before. But we decided to be brave and muster on. We grabbed a tricycle to the bus depot where we got introduced to the Super Jeepney. The super as I will call it was twice the size of a normal jeepney, similar in size of our yellow school buses, all decked out in jeepney style. A three hour ride cost us about eighty cents. The bus has blaring dance music the whole way with people hopping on and off like crazy. We had the back row and even with a rough night before, we were very cozy, even when the row had six people in it.

Well we got dropped off at a cross roads near a fish market. We negotiated a nice deal for the 18 km drive in a Vancycle, which was perfect for all our huge bags. Our driver was great, and a lot of fun too. We did not have any resevations over here, and really plotted out this course because of the white sand beaches it was famous for. So we stopped by and inspected three different resorts. We felt bad because each was like a mile down a very rutted dirt road. But our driver was awesome and never complained once, even though I think he figured we were crazy not to have reservations. Each resort was walled compound on the beach, with cliffs and a protected beach. The first one was only half finished, and though really gorgeous rooms with glass doors looking at the ocean, it just did not feel right. So back up the rutted road to the next one. The second one was nice and full of atmosphere, and they dropped their price for us, but they did not have a pool. Well we chose the third, and of course the most expensive one. At eighty bucks a night it was way out of our budget range. I was able to negotiate a discount of like ten bucks. But what a place, we loved it. I had no idea there were resorts that had only 9 rooms in them. There was an infinity pool looking out over the ocean, a great beach, and open restaurant. Exactly what we needed to relax and recuperate from an exhausting journey.

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The staff were excellent and we stayed a day longer then we planned, and changed rooms numerous times because of how much we loved it. Every time one of the girls brought me a Red Horse beer, they would say only stronge men drink red horse. Truthfully, I could not stand any of San Miguel’s other beers. Yvonne and I both agreed that they just did not sit right nor take any of the edge off.

We met a nice French couple while I went scuba diving and made plans to hit up the local village. We saw what looked like a large fiddler crab crossing the road, about the size of a softball. Me being me, I had to catch it. It was fast moving, but not fast enough. So I grabbed him from behind, like Alex Weaver taught me with blue crabs, and next thing I know is his pincher reached under his shell and grabbed me good. I yelped like a, hmmm, well no offence, but a girl and ripped my hand back. The crab went flying but sadly, he did not let go, so he sailed off into the moonlight without an arm. He landed with a thunk and scampered off, leaving his twitchy arm and claw behind attached to my finger. Lesson learned, leave the wildlife alone.

The beach bar we planned to visit was closed, so we found a local “fast food” option, pretty much only local place to eat. Philippino fast food is a bunch of crock pots left out with lids on them, and the food was all cooked in early morming, even though at this point it was 8 at night. So it sits around all day, and some times they heat it for you, sometimes they don’t. Well our French friend Max just walks in and is like we will have 9 spring rolls, 3 of that, a bottle of rum, is the coke cold, no, ok, we’ll get it over there, and four plates please. Do you guys want to add anything? So funny most people are shy of street food, he on the other hand, was all about it. We had a feast, and started talking to the family who owned it. There was an older woman who cooks it all, her husband who was drinking strong wine, and a few daughters. The girls seemed exhausted, and clealy were ready to close up shop, and they were waiting for this big bunch of gringos to finish up. We complimented the chef because all the food was fabulous. The owner comes out and tells us she started cooking at 3 a.m. but then she brings more food. She tells us her husband drinks wine to sleep and then she makes us a odd coctail with beer, coke, rice wine, and something else which turned out great, though it needed ice. So we are drinking with them and toasting and taking pictures while the daughters are clearly embarrassed by their parents.

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After that we hit the only spot happening on Saturday night and the whole staff of our resort are there. So we buy them some red horse and they buy us some sort of shots, and we all dance like crazy till it’s time to act like a kid again and jump off the second floor balcony to the pool which the band is playing next too. Normally this would be bad, but we asked first, and being a resort, they said fine, then charged for swimming. Well things got wilder, and wilder, and we all knew it was time to take our leave.

So we decided to take the beach home, no ride. Everyone warned us about the crabs, little late I would say, and with the full moon they were out. Well, most of the villagers were hunting then on the beach. So after such a full day, a full moon swim in the ocean was in order. A perfect night.

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The next day we took the kayak out and paddled round some gorgeous coves and beaches. We snorkelled and were amazed by the plethora of life under our feet such as schools of fish, large blue starfish, and large black sea urchins.

We decoded for the trip back to hire a guide and see the chocolate hills and tarsiers, plus get deposited back at the ferry all in one shot. The chocolate hills are a real interesting geographic phenomenon that look like 100’s of perfectly shaped round hills. They are so perfect they almost seem man made. And to tell the truth it was impressive, but, and you knew this was coming, the park is completely cheesed out. Tacky with a capital T. With tons of tourist lining up to do funny pictures, and venders selling junk all the way up to the view point, and some really tacky non- functioning cement water falls, it just took the beauty out of this natural wonder.

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As a last minute decision we stopped at a butterfly farm. With the last tacky experience still sitting wrong in our mouth, we were fully prepared to be annoyed. Instead we were surprised to get a education and enlightening tour of the butterfly gardens. Our guide truly loved his job and showed it with his knowledge and enthusiasm. We saw butterfly’s in every stage of development, and saw glass cases filled with different samples. It would make my Uncle Louie who was an entomologist and author of “Will It Bite Me” proud. The gardens were gorgeous with all kinds of flowers to attract the butterflies. They would flutter around you and land on different parts of your body. We even learned how some species when threatened would play dead.

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Next stop was the tasiers, which sadly was disappointing also. They had a protected forest to help breed this shy nocturnal primate with huge bulging eyes and the ability to jump like 10 feet. It was more like a zoo with way too many staff standing near each sleeping tasier. They had no real informaion about the animals, nor what they were doing to save it. The butterfly museum had a great display on them and I learned more there than at their national park for them. I am a huge supporter of conservation, and understand the need for parks like this, but they really need to use the park as an education tool, not a way to sell some crappy stuffed animals and tshirts.

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